Florida Divorce Law Grounds for Change of Venue
By Wayne Thomas
The decision of where to file for divorce may be based on convenience. In Florida, the filing spouse makes an initial election regarding which county to bring the action in, and the responding spouse is then provided a short period in which to object. Because it is possible for more than one county to meet the venue requirements, a Florida court must take into consideration the relative convenience and burdens imposed on all parties and witnesses in deciding whether to approve or deny a request for change of venue.
Overview of Venue
It is important to understand the distinction between jurisdiction and venue for divorce actions in Florida. Jurisdiction refers to the power of the state courts to dissolve a marriage, and requires at least one spouse to have lived in Florida for six months. The right to challenge jurisdiction may never be waived, and an objection by the court or parties can be made at any time during the divorce process. Venue, on the other hand, refers to which county would be the most appropriate forum to hear the case, determined by where the parties currently live and where the couple resided during the marriage. Unlike jurisdiction, the right to request a change of venue is considered waived if a timely objection is not raised.
Under Florida law, a divorce action may only be brought in the county where the non-filing spouse currently resides, or the county where the parties lived during the marriage. This is based on the rationale that the responding spouse should have some connection with the county where the case is filed. To that end, if the action is filed in a county that does not meet these requirements, the non-filing spouse may petition the court to transfer the case.
Florida law provides judges with the power to transfer a case to another county to prevent injustice, or for the convenience of the parties and witnesses. If the non-filing spouse or witnesses for either side would be required to commute a great distance to participate in the case, extreme travel-associated litigation costs may support a transfer. Regardless of the facts, the burden is on the non-filing spouse to convince the court that justice or convenience requires a transfer.
Raising a challenge to venue needs to be done by motion in Florida. The motion should indicate that another county meets the venue requirements, and must include specific facts supporting your claim that transferring the case would promote convenience or prevent injustice in this case. In addition, the motion needs to contain the signatures of at least two citizens of the county where you desire the action to be moved and be notarized. The time period for filing the motion is 10 days from the date of filing the action, unless you can show good cause to the court. Good cause might include delays in receiving the initial paperwork, but it becomes much more difficult to raise the issue as the case moves forward.
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."